Chief Exec Update

Posted on 29/11/2022 by Ed Hammond.

Chief executive’s update: W/C 25 November 2022

With apologies for the slight delay since I last wrote to update you on CfGS’s work, here’s some information about what’s coming up as we head into the Christmas period.

Right now we’re recruiting for a new permanent post in the organisation. We’re trying to find a Senior Governance Consultant – someone who can help us to support our client (councils in England, mainly) by carrying out reviews and evaluations of constitutions, scrutiny arrangements and governance more generally – as well as delivering training. It’s a varied role likely to be of interest to relatively experienced officers working in and around scrutiny and Democratic Services, and pays £50k a year. If you’re interested, you can apply here.

Financial scrutiny – and in particular the scrutiny of council budget’s – is likely to be at the top of people’s agendas at the moment. We held a very well attended webinar in early November at which Guy Clifton, Director of Local Government Value for Money, spoke to around 80 councillors and officers about the challenges and opportunities around effective financial scrutiny, with particular reference to recent “reports in the public interest” that GT have prepared, highlighting concerns about councils’ financial positions. In the light of the recent s114 notice issued by Croydon’s Director of Finance and the possibility that more s114s are coming in the near future, addressing the need for strong and effective financial scrutiny should arguably be the number 1 priority for scrutiny functions in the coming weeks. You can watch a recording of the session here, read a writeup produced by my colleague Meg Ingle here, and read our financial scrutiny practice guide (published in 2020) here.

Also in early November we brought together a group of experts to discuss the ongoing reforms in the health service for a webinar attended by over 50 councillors and officers. At the moment there’s still a lot of uncertainty about the exact form of the changes to scrutiny arrangements – as well as exactly when those new arrangements will be brought in. DHSC civil servants were in attendance and engaged positively with councillors and officers questions and concerns about the changes – they’ve promised to continue to engage and we look forward to updating you further. You can watch a recording here and a briefing note will be published shortly. You can also read our recent summary of the health scrutiny changes here.  

There are two publications which we’ve recently put out that you are likely to find interesting. The first, produced by our seconded Senior Governance Consultant Natalie Rotherham, is a short piece setting out good practice on scrutiny work programming. This is something on which we’ve written about before, at length, but this shorter publication (updated to reflect developing practice) hopefully provides an accessible way in to what can be a complex topic. You can read this here.

The second publication is one that we have produced alongside the Local Government Boundary Commission for England, which engages with the subject of electoral reviews. This is the product of two years of research, led for us by Kate Grigg (who’s since left CfGS). You can read this here. If you have an electoral review coming up (or if one has recently concluded at your council and you are moving towards implementation of boundary changes) we’d be keen to learn more about your expectations, and experiences of the process.

We have a few other publications in the pipeline but a few of these have been delayed due to factors largely beyond our control. A guide to call-in will be published in the next couple of weeks. Guides to council constitutions, the operation of full council meetings, and the drafting of effective schemes of delegation have now been pushed back to the New Year. If you want to contribute to the development of these documents we are forming a small reference group of people to look at drafts – please contact me using the details below. We’re grateful for the assistance of LLG and ADSO in carrying out this work.

Finally, if you haven’t already done so, please save the date for the CfGS (not quite) Annual Conference 2023, on 14 June, in London. Tickets will go on sale in January, when we’ll be publishing a full agenda. In the meantime, please let us know if there’s anything you’d like to see raised and discussed, and we’ll try to weave it into the programme!

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About the Author: Ed Hammond

Ed leads CfGS's work on devolution, transformation and on support to councils and other public bodies on governance and accountability.